From years of experience, Lori Meyer can say with confidence that when it comes to technical editing, a communicative relationship and empathy with the author is the key ingredient to a productive collaboration. When there is open communication and good teamwork, an editor’s value can change from the perception of a grumpy Comma Cop to a valued resource and key member of the team.
A good relationship begins with the editor’s attitude: Do you get frustrated when writing is unclear, incomplete or poorly structured? Do you blame the client for schedule pressures or not recognizing the need for a heavier edit than a quick copyedit. Do you prefer to stay buried in your work rather than building the bonds of face-to-face connections? If so, others’ perceptions of you and your value as an editor will likely reduce opportunities and the quality of written content in your group.
According to Lori, communication is the secret sauce that makes the difference, and she offered several practical tips for forming a collaborative relationship with the writers whose content you are editing:
- Rather than correct, collaborate with the author. Take a teamwork approach in making revisions.
- Build a friendly relationship, agree on edit level and other expectations, give the author a heads up on your editorial approach.
- Avoid harsh or non-helpful feedback such a big question mark or “Awkward” or “No!” in the margin. Coach on rewording by noting “Consider this rewrite suggestion…”
- Compliment examples of good writing and encourage more of the same.
- Resist being judgemental. Have an open mind about the author’s environment, the project backstory, English language skills and peer community (Academics? Petroleum engineers? Geologists? Novelists? Software gurus?)
- Keep a scratchpad nearby for quietly and harmlessly venting editorial frustrations: “There is no such verb as SOLUTIONING!!”
If you really want to gain the respect and future opportunities that come from helping your colleagues or company avoid embarrassing content issues, dare to offer your educational services to the appropriate audience. A presentation to share the goals, edit levels, dictionaries and internal style guides behind an editor’s work can build not only your reputation as an editor but that of all editors.